UVa’s Killjoys at Work

Girls just want to have fun? Credit: UVa Club Gymnastics Instagram site

by James A. Bacon

Over on the Bacon’s Rebellion blog earlier this afternoon, I criticized Virginia’s colleges and universities for nurturing campus cultures that turn students into snowflakes unprepared for the adversity of the modern-day workplace and life as adults. A big contributor to the snowflake phenomenon is what psychologist Jonathan Haidt calls “safetyism” — essentially, protecting students from the risks of undergoing a bad experience.

Reporting on the Hazing Misconduct Report, today’s Cavalier Daily describes two cases of safetyism in which the university referred the Women’s Club Gymnastics and the University Guide Service student groups to the University Judiciary Committee for adjudication.

The kind of hazing that most people think of as requiring suppression usually results in wandering around stoned and naked, passing out blind drunk, or jumping out of windows. Everyone agrees that such outcomes are to be discouraged. But how bad is the following?

On Sept. 16, according to the bill of particulars, the Women’s Club Gymnastics instructed initiates to arrive at an event location precisely at 9:16 p.m…. “without information on the nature or purpose of the gathering.” (Gasp!) They were divided into groups divided by colors: blue, yellow, pink and orange. (Ew. Bad taste.) Then they were instructed to do “wall sits” until they succeeded in making a current club member laugh. The consequence of failure to induce laughter led to taking “a shot or alcohol or water.”

New members were instructed to do one-handed cartwheels with a jello shot in the hand, and to complete certain tasks such as singing, dancing, and “finding large sticks.”

Are you kidding me? That’s it? What’s the offense here? Wearing tacky colors? Singing? Dancing? Finding large sticks? Trying to make people laugh? Being given a choice of drinking a shot of alcohol or water? The only thing that remotely approaches being dangerous is doing a one-handed cartwheel while holding a shot. But remember, this is a friggin’ gymnastics club!

Not to be outdone, the University Guide Service engaged in the following horrific activities over the fall of 2022

“Probies” were were told to remix a popular song and perform on the steps of the Rotunda. During performances they were “yelled at” by older Guides. (Yelled at?That’s abusive!)

Worse, probies were taken by car to undisclosed locations off-grounds and not told where they were being taken, resulting in “fear and anxiety around safety.” (In my day, we called such abductions magical mystery tours.)

Even worse, probies were required to stand for the duration of the Big Guiding, even when they were not actively giving the tour!!!! (Told to stand? What’s next, waterboarding?)

More horrifying yet, probies were subjected to a “probie scare” event in which they were provided a fake syllabus that included the statement, “Probie does not equal Guide” that was bolded and underlined, accompanied by statements that the bottom 15% of the probie class would be required to repeat the probie semester. Then the initiates were quizzed on the fake syllabus with questions crafted to be so difficult that they could not reasonably know the answers!!!! When the probies turned over the quiz over, they were informed that the exercise was a joke. (Kept in suspense for how long — an hour? Barbarically cruel!)

Finally, probies were told to “wear an embarrassing costume at a high profile location.” (My god, have they no decency?)

OK, the Student Guides did engage in one activity that might could maybe, if overdone, lead to an undesirable outcome. A current member (Big Guide) attempted to “ice” probies, which entailed chugging a Smirnoff Ice. The Big Guides also provided alcohol to underage probies on multiple occasions.

I don’t condone under-age drinking. But how many drugs are consumed and how much alcohol is swilled without the slightest intervention by the university administration? Why are these groups being singled out for what is undoubtedly common behavior?

I have my issues with the Student Guides, who routinely present negative portrayals of Thomas Jefferson and the University of Virginia during their guided tours, thus turning off tourists, prospective students, and other visitors. They do the university a huge dis-service. But I cannot get exercised about their hijinks.

The safety Nazis have totally lost sight that hazing serves a positive purpose. It is a bonding experience. It reinforces group cohesion. UVa administrators are all atwitter about how to increase students’ sense of “belonging” at the university. One way to do that is to let young people be young people, join student groups, and undergo the bonding experience of mild to moderate hazing. Banning initiation ceremonies undermines the sense of belonging. The new puritans are the enemies of belonging.

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1 year ago

With apologies to any Navy colleagues for paraphrasing an emergency announcement over the Shipboard 1MC announcement system –
FUN in the Womens Gymnastics Meeting Room!
Away the FUN supression team!

Michael Connors
Michael Connors
1 year ago

Hazing is a serious issue. Real hazing can and has been fatal.
My concern with the current interpretation of what constitutes hazing at UVa is that it will drive very serious hazing underground. If students – and arguably any reasonable person – perceives these hazing infractions as a complete joke – then you have surrendered legitimate authority. Students just won’t take you seriously. Fraternity pledges are prohibited from cleaning up fraternity houses after parties. So – their parents will pay someone who lives in Charlottesville to clean up after them. Wonderful lesson there.
I am very concerned about this.

1 year ago

The Administration wants to eradicate the Greek system. That is evident by the bannings of the last several years. Phi Gam was kicked off Grounds for throwing an egg at a pledge, effectively killing the 2nd oldest frat at UVA. Outrageous.

Jack Cann
Jack Cann
1 year ago

This sounds like a tempest in a teapot. The hazing authorities must have little to do pursuing these cases. This is harmless fun. My advice: give it a rest.

Ivor Massey
Ivor Massey
1 year ago

The progressives are intent on ensuring that no is enjoying anything anywhere. That’s why completely harmless vaping is banned everywhere smoking is.

Allan Eng
1 year ago

I read the CD article & had similar reaction. Glad I am not alone.

1 year ago

Spot on, Jim. These are rites of passage, not intolerant acts to be castigated. The Administration is delusional if they think these actions psychologically disable students.

Small wonder our military is at record lows in enlistments. If a 20 something dissolves over humorous harassment, how will they fare against a rabid enemy foe shooting at them?

If we don’t overturn these woke policies America is lost.

walter smith
walter smith
1 year ago

There is something going on.
When I was a “goat,” and I survived! – the “hazing” was mild, mostly around drinking and was bonding. Somewhere since, it seems everywhere the hazing has gotten meaner and stupider and sometimes dangerous – maybe a result of too much structure and helicopter parenting that the still kids don’t learn stupidity is not funny when it becomes dangerous?
I don’t know.
I do know that UVA HATES the Greeks, but really mostly the fraternities. The Racial Equity Task Force Report (designed to increase division and arrogate more power to bureaucrats) actually has a footnote on the Greek system being a problem – something like footnote 74 on page 43 or so….

Goats clean the fraternity after the parties and remain goats until the new pledge class. Goats have every incentive to get a good class of people they like to replace them. The system works and has worked.

Going deeper, rush should be in the first semester, like it was. This way, those interested in the Greek system can join and have 2nd year housing, instead of being forced to pick people you barely know and lease a place in a city you barely know (which is why the 2nd years are so heavy at a place like Grand Marc). Living together 2nd year also increases bonding.
So UVA makes it harder ON PURPOSE. The law still being 21 is a problem. I’m sorry – if you can vote, then you should be able to drink. If you are too stupid to handle alcohol, then you are too stupid to vote. Make your pick.

Finally, asking for a friend…if calling a “goat” a “goat” is hazing, what is mandating a shot of an experimental medical product without WILLING fully informed consent in violation of the Nuremberg Code? Is blackmailing already enrolled students to do something they don’t want a form of hazing? Seems to me it is, and I think the Ryan administration should be kicked off grounds for repeated, intentional hazing over a sustained period, despite the objections of many, many people.

What do you think?